Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rapid Rewind: Still B.A.D.

No it wasn't, Semyon.  Now you stop the bleeding.
The Washington Capitals were utterly humiliated Friday at Verizon Center, falling by a final score of 6-0 to the visiting New York Rangers, the ninth time they have been shut out this season.  The game also marked the Caps' worst home loss since 2006, and was their third consecutive defeat at Verizon Center. The Caps failed to build on the momentum they generated over the weekend, coming out flat, and payed a dear price for their disinterestedness.  To make matters worse, defenseman Mike Green left the game after making his return from a concussion just five minutes in after an dirty hit from Rangers rookie Derek Stepan, and did not return, although he was able to skate off under his own power.  With the loss, the Capitals fell five points behind division leading Tampa Bay, who beat the Devils, and who also hold a game in hand on the Capitals.  If there is any good news, it is that the Canadiens, one spot behind the Capitals, lost last night, which means that the Capitals remain three points clear of the Habs for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

The Capitals got off to a good start, getting some rushes up ice early, and a glorious Alex Ovechkin chance, but were stopped by Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.  After a short period of Rangers forecheck pressure, Alex Ovechkin got another great break up ice, but once again was denied by a quick Lundqvist save.  Soon after, Derek Stepan and former Caps Steve Eminger led a good rush up ice for the Rangers after a bad turnover by Mathieu Perrault at the attacking blue line, but Michal Neuvirth was there to stop both shots.  But after Stepan took Green out of the play with an elbow to the head, the Rangers converted against the effectively shorthanded Caps when Eminger's shot from the point deflected in off Brooks Laich at the 5:56 mark.  To make matters worse, Green went right down the tunnel to the locker room.  However, Washington tried to get back in the game after the goal, but again had to be bailed out by their goaltender on a good chance by Brian Boyle.  They were gifted a power play when the Rangers took a too many men on the ice penalty at the 10:47 mark, but could not do anything with is despite some chances early.  Predictably, no sooner than the power play ended, the Rangers began to pick up their forecheck again.  Soon after, they took advantage of a bad turnover down low when Michael Sauer dished in front to Erik Christensen, who had a backdoor tap in for a 2-0 Ranger lead at the 14:47 mark. The teams then got into a back and forth, with the Rangers willing to protect the lead and the Capitals just being lazy, but Alex Ovechkin took control with two and a half minutes to play by driving to the net, drawing a penalty in the process when he was hauled down at the 17:42 mark. But alas, the power play was again miserable, and produced no zone time, and the first period ended with boos cascading down from the seats.
The second period got off to a fast start, with the Capitals pushing up ice early, but could not get a good shot off on Lundqvist.  Their aggression then cost them, as the Rangers got a three on one break up ice that took a great play by Scott Hannan to break up.  Nevertheless, the play gave the Rangers the momentum again.  At the 3:06 mark, Alexander Semin took another stick penalty (stop me if you've heard this before) and sent the Capitals to the penalty kill.  After a good start to the kill, though, Erik Christensen converted at the top of the crease on another tap-in goal at the 4:19 mark to completely kill the Verizon Center crowd. After the goal, the Rangers took complete control of the game, breaking up every Capitals attack in the neutral zone and preventing any good shots on their goaltender, save one good rush by John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom.  The Capitals had another chance to get some life at the 13:29 mark when Ryan Callahan took a tripping penalty, but once again, nothing came of it, despite a few good chances.  A minute after the power play expired, Matt Bradley took a bad penalty, sending the Rangers to the power play again.  And once more, the Rangers cashed in, this time off the stick of Derek Stepan at the 17:52 mark after a dominant man advantage.  Over the last two minutes, the Capitals appeared dead and defeated, and the teams headed to their locker rooms with the Blueshirts up 4-0.
The third period got off to an okay start for Washington as Vinny Prospal took a holding call just a minute into the frame off a short burst of pressure from the Caps.  But 42 seconds later, Brooks Laich took a four minute high-sticking penalty that ended the power play and started a period of four on four.  The Caps then got a rush right off the draw, but Lundqvist was there once more to deny Washington anything.  After the expiration of the Prospal penalty, the Rangers got an extended power play, but could not extend their lead despite continuing to dominate.  But just 30 seconds after their power play ended, the Rangers did extent their lead when the recently released Prospal buried a rebound in front for a 5-0 lead at 6:16.  The Capitals then gave up, coasting around and playing right into the hands of the Rangers' effective shot blocking and trap system.  They were given another power play at the 11:16 mark, and made a little noise on the man advantage, but again could not score.  As the game wore down, the Rangers kept coming at the Capitals full tilt, and Michal Neuvirth made a couple of nice saves to keep New York from extending their lead even more.  Inside of five minutes, the Capitals clearly were in complete "get me out of this" mode, and it came back to bite them, predictably, inside one minute as Brian Boyle got in on the party with a goal of his own off a nice pass from Erik Christensen at 19:26. The remaining 34 seconds ticked off without incident, and the Capitals retreated to their locker room beaten, bruised, and defeated.


This team is harder to figure out than a certain girl I know.  I do not understand how a team that looked so sound defensively over the last two games can totally poop the bed on home ice like this against an inferior team missing both of their best players.  They were beaten to every puck, lost every battle, and committed bad turnovers in a game they really needed to have.  Even more disheartening is that they didn't really seem to care after the first period, not going after Stepan for what he did to Green and looking like they didn't care in general.  It was so bad, the Verizon Center staff "unleashed the fury" at 11:40 - of the second period. Yuck.

Alex Ovechkin came to play tonight.  The Capitals captain had is motor running throuhout the first two periods, and gave it all for every shift until Bruce reigned him in during the third to save him for tomorrow night.  He had eight shots and six hits, and was not afraid to get in the middle of anything when it appeared the Capitals had half a prayer at winning this game.  Ovie drove to the net well, too, something that he has been reluctant to do recently.  Not a step back for him on a night where there were a lot taken.

Nicklas Backstrom was largely ineffective and seemed to be hampered (understandably) by his broken thumb.  He didn't take any faceoffs, which is usually important for a center, and struggled to gain his rhythm all night.  He'll probably play the rest of the season with that busted digit, and even though half a Nicklas Backstrom is better than any alternative the Caps have, it's still not ideal, and it could really hurt them down the stretch run.

The Capitals are flying to Long Island tonight as for tomorrow night's away leg of a home-and-home with the suddenly not-awful Islanders.  The Caps will have to be without Mike Green for that game, as he has already been pronounced out with a possible concussion.  Tomorrow night's game is scheduled for 7 P.M.

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